Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains
Director: Frank Capra
Running Time: 129 mins
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is an American film about a naive man who is surprisingly appointed U.S. Senator to fill a vacancy in the Senate, and although he finds himself among a group of corrupt politicians, he does everything he can to make sure democracy prevails as a controversial new bill is about to be passed.
This film is absolutely brilliant! It’s a racy, exciting and fascinating political drama, with one of the most inspirational and truthful performances ever given by James Stewart, that teaches and inspires you to stand up for what you believe in, no matter how unrealistic your chances are.
One thing that does make this a classic is its surprisingly warm feeling, despite the controversial and satirical nature of its rather dark story. As with other Capra hits, like It’s A Wonderful Life, you do get this blend of darkness and warmth in terms of the story, however that creates a really distinct atmosphere that makes this film so unique.
Although it is also intensely patriotic to America on the surface, the story has a very critical nature of the American politics of the time. You’ve then got to admire how daring this film is to talk about such a controversial topic as the world of 1930s political fat cats at a time when the censors were pretty strong in the USA.
And that also evokes the spirit of this film. The story ignores the censors, it ignores the norms of the time and pushes through a forward-thinking and though-provoking idea about the fundamental bases of democracy and justice, and the undying human spirit that will forever fight to protect the interest of the democratic peoples of the world.
And that’s where Jimmy Stewart’s performance fits in so perfectly. Not only is his character, Jefferson Smith, just a normal man, he represents every one of us, and his perseverance and loyalty to both his country and democracy, mainly through his famous 23 hour-long speech in the US Senate, teaches and inspires you so deeply to stand up for what you believe in.
As you relate so easily to Mr. Smith, that makes the tension between him and the other US Senators all the more exciting and real to watch, because you sympathise with him to such an extent that really begin to hate the other politicians a great deal, causing high tension and therefore great excitement.
Overall, I’ll give this an 8.6, because it’s a hugely fascinating, exciting, unique classic that gives off one of the most inspiring messages of all time.